Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 10, 2022

Newsline: Former Democratic Republic of Congo honorary consul arrested in India

Mumbai A 33-year-old Andheri businessman was arrested for allegedly pretending to be an honorary consul of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in India, despite the DRC government and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) withdrawing his name from the post four years ago. The accused, Amit Agarwal, was arrested from his residence. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/bizman-arrested-for-cheating-mea-congo-government/ar-AAW0ql8) The DRC government had on September 27, 2017, requested the MEA to withdraw Agarwal’s appointment from the honorary consul’s post. MEA approved the request on October 30, 2017. Following this, DRC’s advocate in India informed Agarwal about the withdrawal on December 4, 2017, and also requested him to stop using the post with immediate effect. However, despite this, Agarwal kept on misusing the post and allegedly enjoyed many privileges and took direct and indirect benefits by attending government and social functions and contacting organisations under the state and central governments. Agarwal was arrested for cheating by impersonation. He was produced before a court and remanded to police custody up to April 12.

Newsline: US digital diplomacy gets a reboot

It should come as no surprise that government bureaucracies move slowly. After all, over a year into its term, the Biden administration has successfully filled fewer than half of its key positions a year. But that just makes this week’s launch of the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy (CDP), just six months after it was announced, seem positively nimble by comparison. (https://techcrunch.com/2022/04/08/digital-diplomacy-gets-a-reboot/) It will have to be if it is to succeed. “The United States is the most technologically advanced country on Earth,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a speech announcing the bureau last year at the Foreign Service Institute. “The State Department should be empowered by that strength.” Yet until now technology has been, if not an afterthought, certainly not front and center of American diplomacy. Despite the establishment of a cyber office in 2011 under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the office was downgraded during the Trump administration. No longer. “The last few years have made evident how vital cybersecurity and digital policy are to America’s national security,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote State Department staff in an email provided to TechCrunch. “We’re in a contest over the rules, infrastructure and standards that will define our digital future.”

Newsline: US ‘will not hesitate’ to expel Russian diplomats

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said the U.S. would not hesitate to expel Russian diplomats if they are suspected of espionage, amid other countries removing the Russian officials. NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd noted during an interview with Sullivan that nearly 20 other countries had moved to expel Russian diplomats in the past week. He pointed out there are about 400 Russian officials in the U.S. and asked Sullivan why the U.S. hasn’t moved to expel from the country. Sullivan responded by pointing to the dozen Russian officials who were expelled in February for “espionage activities.” “We have, in fact, expelled 12 Russian diplomats. And many of these countries that announced actions this week were catching up to the previous American announcement of expulsions,” said Sullivan. “Now, of course, we’re always on the lookout for anyone connected to espionage or spy services. And we will not hesitate to take further action to declare persona non grata to expel, to kick out further Russian quote — unquote ‘diplomats’ if we determine they’re spies,” he added. (https://news.yahoo.com/sullivan-us-not-hesitate-expel-165856970.html) When the 12 Russian diplomats were expelled from the U.S., officials said it was due to them abusing “their privileges of residency in the U.S. by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security,” and did not cite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as reason for the expulsion.

Newsline: China slams US embassy’s virus ‘accusations’

China blasted the United States for making “groundless accusations” about its Covid-19 policy, after surging cases in Shanghai prompted the American consulate to let some staff leave the locked-down megacity. Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy has come under strain since March as over 100,000 cases in Shanghai have seen its 25 million inhabitants locked down in phases, inciting complaints of food shortages and clashes with health workers. The US embassy said Saturday it would permit non-essential employees to leave its consulate in Shanghai due to the case surge, warning citizens in China they may face “arbitrary enforcement” of virus curbs. In response, Beijing expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the US side’s groundless accusations about China’s epidemic control policy”, according to a statement issued Saturday on the foreign ministry’s website. “This is the US’s own decision. However, it must be pointed out that China’s epidemic control policy is scientific and effective,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, adding that Beijing had lodged “solemn representations” with American counterparts. (https://news.yahoo.com/china-slams-us-virus-accusations-100330599.html) China is sticking fast to a policy of snap lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions to staunch the spread of the virus even as Shanghai’s daily case numbers have spiralled under an Omicron-fuelled wave.

Newsline: Elon Musk featured in Chinese embassy event in Washington

American billionaire Elon Musk was featured at an event in Beijing’s embassy in Washington on Saturday that focused on space exploration, just a few months after a minor spat China had with Musk’s company SpaceX over the trajectories of its satellites. Musk’s short, pre-recorded remarks were played on three large screens to an audience of American schoolchildren, their parents and teachers, embassy staff and journalists. “I look forward to humanity working together to form self-sustaining civilisation on Mars and other planets,” he said, characterising this goal as important for long-term prosperity and survival. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/elon-musk-featured-chinese-embassy-093000344.html) Musk has suggested several times that he is aiming for a mission to Mars, including a pledge in 2016 to build a rocket capable of taking people to the red planet and support a permanent settlement there.

Newsline: Afghan embassy in Moscow handed over to Taliban

In the midst of constricting sanctions and increasing isolation by the West for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia on Saturday completed the official handover of the Afghanistan embassy in Moscow to the Taliban. Jamal Garwal who was accredited in late March 2022 as Charge d’Affaires in Afghanistan Embassy in Moscow took charge and the Islamist group’s flag was hoisted inside the mission premises. “The Ministry of Foreign Affair) of IEA (Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan) expresses gratitude to the government of the Russian Federation for accrediting the Afghan diplomat and facilitating the role of the Afghan Embassy in ensuring bilateral relations and providing timely services to its citizens in Russia”, said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/afghan-embassy-in-moscow-handed-over-to-taliban-flag-hoisted/ar-AAW3ClI) Moscow’s move is a result of a series of talks with the Taliban since last year when it took over Kabul in August. But the talks started gaining momentum January onwards. In March during the talks on Afghanistan that were hosted by China in Tunxi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, the international community must engage with the Taliban government in Kabul.

Newsline: Turkey’s top diplomat says U.S. counterpart invited him for first talks in three years

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken invited him for talks on May 18, which would mark the first in three years between the NATO members that have taken steps to improve long-strained ties. (https://news.yahoo.com/turkeys-cavusoglu-says-blinken-invited-134642230.html) Still, the two governments launched a joint mechanism this week to address frictions and boost cooperation, including a Turkish request to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet. Speaking in Brussels after a NATO meeting, Cavusoglu said talks on the F-16s were going well and he welcomed reports that the U.S. administration sent a letter to Congress saying the sale would serve U.S. interests and NATO. “In order to hold a meeting at the foreign ministers level, Antony Blinken invited me to Washington on May 18, and we will evaluate this at that meeting,” he said. Ankara and Washington also disagree over policies in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. Yet Turkey has ramped up engagement with Western allies since Russia invaded Ukraine. It has maritime borders and good ties with both Russia and Ukraine, and its efforts at mediating the conflict have been welcomed in the West.

Newsline: Sports Diplomacy United Fans from North and South Korea

Throughout history, sports have played a pivotal role in fostering peace between nations, even within the historically tense relationship between North and South Korea. “Athletes work very hard to participate in the Olympic games. Regardless of whether they win or lose, they feel like they are in the same combat,” notes Kim Kyun Sung, Chairman of the YOG Support Committee. (https://abc7news.com/pyeongchang-peace-forum-sports-diplomacy-olympics/11726709/) In 2018, with tensions high between North Korea and the United States, South Korea invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to their country and North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympic Games. This act of diplomacy helped to pave the way for a broader dialogue between the two countries, and eventually, a summit between North Korea and the U.S., which briefly seemed to deescalate tensions. The 2018 PyeongChang Olympic games also featured a united North and South Korean women’s hockey team, the first time the two nations had competed together in the game’s history. This was a start, but the work to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula still continues in 2022, especially as the war in Ukraine pushes international tensions to the brink. Looking to the future, leaders in South Korea hope to hold the 2024 Youth Olympics in the combined province of Gangwon, which was split into two provinces in 1945 by the Military Demarcation Line and the Korean Demilitarized Zone, commonly known as the DMZ.